Title: In the Dark
Director: David Spaltro
Starring: Lynn Justinger, Grace Folsom, Fiona Horrigan Catherine Cobb Ryan and Jesse R. Tendler
The prospect of exploring the seemingly frightening unknown, and ultimately deciding to take a leap of faith to explore a situation that you never thought you’d be emotionally prepared to handle, is a daunting prospect for many people. That unnerving anticipation of delving into unpredictable circumstances is intriguingly investigated in the new independent horror mystery drama, ‘In the Dark,’ which marks the first entry in the genre from writer-director David Spaltro. The filmmaker, who previously penned and helmed the intriguing indie dramas ‘…Around’ and ‘Things I Don’t Understand,’ boldly transitioned into chronicling the story of several female characters who begin contending with drastic and unpredictable changes in their emotions and lifestyles, as a result of frightening evil that has unexpectedly crept into their lives.
‘In the Dark’ follows grad student Veronica Carpenter (Lynn Justinger), a grad student who’s writing her thesis on modern psychology, including how purported incidents of the supernatural and demonic possessions have dwindled in recent years in part because of advancements in modern medicine. She doesn’t have a strong faith and belief in religion, after contending with a troubled childhood and her confidence in the work psychologists have done with patients with psychosis. Veronica’s troubled upbringing has also led her to be apprehensive about fully committing to her devoted boyfriend, Buckley (Jesse R. Tendler), a photographer who wants to further their relationship by moving in together. She becomes even more doubtful about truly committing to him when she discovers that she’s pregnant.
To help take her mind off of her personal dilemma, Veronica begins interviewing renowned paranormal specialist, Dr. Lois Kearne (Fiona Horrigan), for her thesis. The grad student doesn’t initially believe the professor’s claims that she has seen evil, but agrees to accompany her to visit a family in Brooklyn, in an effort to help a distressed mother, Joan Mills (Catherine Cobb Ryan). As a nurse, Joan becomes increasingly concerned about her daughter, Bethany (Grace Folsom), a talented young artist who’s displaying increasing violent behavior. While Veronica insists that Bethany needs psychiatric help when they first arrive at the house, the investigators soon become confronted with their own dark secrets and unexplainable horrific events as Bethany’s affliction tests the boundaries of all their collective research and experience.
Much like Spaltro’s previous writing and directing efforts on his acclaimed dramas, his new horror mystery film once again features strong, distinctive and enthralling performances from its lead performers, most notably from Justinger and Folsom. The actresses, who also both appeared in ‘Things I Don’t Understand,’ further proved their respective genuine talents and abilities in understanding, and connecting to, their distinctly written and crafted ‘In the Dark’ characters. Justinger smartly infused Veronica with a resolute and resilient apprehension of Lois’ claims and assertions that not only does true evil exist, but it has undoubtedly latched onto the somewhat vulnerable Bethany.
While the grad student is suspicious of the professor’s reluctance to provide Joan with all of the proper information about what’s medically and logically happening to her daughter at first, Justinger subtly begins to believably showcase her character’s change in belief in science and religion. That emotional transformation is in part driven by Folsom’s gripping portrayal of the vulnerable Bethany. The actress powerfully chronicles how her sensitive character, who thrives on expressing her emotions through her expressive paintings, loses touch with her true emotions and identity, and succumbs to the entities that have harrowingly taken control of her body. Folsom intriguingly and fearlessly emphasizes Bethany’s possession through her entrancing contortions of her body, which believably makes it appear as though her character is actually succumbing to the demonic forces that she claims have taken control of her.
Not only do Justinger and Folsom’s captivating performances give powerful credence to Spaltro’s unique horror script, which smartly thrives more on relatable emotions than continuously predictable physical scares, but the filmmaker also infused the film with intelligent visuals that truly aided the overall story. ‘In the Dark’s cinematographer, Gus Sacks, creatively highlighted the drastic change in the characters’ emotions and motivations as they encounter and contend with Bethany’s agonizing transformation, particularly through intimate close-ups shots of Folsom, Justinger and the rest of the intriguing female-driven cast. Sacks also compellingly infused the mystery drama with subdued colors as the story established the characters’ embraces of reality, before adding vibrant tones that alluringly highlight the drastic changes in Bethany and Veronica’s personalities.
‘In the Dark’ is a powerfully captivating first entry from Spaltro as a writer and director in the horror genre, as he creatively balanced showcasing strong performances from his versatile leading female cast. Instead of being limited by shooting the horror drama independently, the filmmaker smartly utilized his actress’ strong emotional transformations and the visual expertise of his crew to infiltrate his third feature film with a dynamic exploration of what it means to remain true to your sense of identity during times of unpredictable despair.
Written by: Karen Benardello